‘Really shocked’: Beachgoer prays for woman bitten by shark

The hospital couldn't elaborate on the extent of the woman's injuries. Meanwhile, nearby beachgoers recounted the moments after the bite.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 4:38 AM CDT
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HONOLULU (KHNL/Gray News) - A Hawaii visitor was hospitalized in critical condition after she was bitten by a shark at a beach.

The 51-year-old woman visiting from France was bitten in waters off Maui’s Paia Bay around 4 p.m. Saturday. Bystanders brought her to shore until emergency personnel took over.

“We had all the officers come — lifeguards, police department — asking that everyone stay out of the water,” said Maui resident Cinthia Pacheco.

Pacheco was at the neighboring Baldwin Beach when the bite happened, KHNL reports.

“I think my first reaction was really shocked, and I just felt so bad for the person,” Pacheco said. “We actually said a little prayer for her at the moment... It could’ve been one of us.”

Department of Land and Natural Resources officials said the victim was about 100 feet from shore when she was bitten. Witnesses said the water was murky after a night of heavy rain, which poses an increased risk for humans while swimming.

“When a predator is pursuing a meal, often times in the wild, they’ll grab at the first thing that they sense or see that could be a potential meal. In cases of accidental shark bites, often it’s just that case of mistaken identity,” said Sea Life Park aquarist supervisor Michelle Benedict.

She’s worked in the marine life field for over 20 years and cares for captive sharks. She said while the risk of getting bitten by a shark may be low, the animals are natural predators, and murky waters are their favorable hunting grounds.

“Sharks and other animals in the ocean know you’re there long before you realize that they are there,” Benedict said. “When sharks bite humans, very rarely do they come back to finish off that meal because they realized their mistake, and that’s not the flavor profile or the size of the item they thought they were getting.”

The last shark encounter on Maui was back in May 2021, when a shark bit a man who fell off his kite foil at Kanaha Beach Park. That encounter resulted in minor injuries.

Officials advise people to stay out of murky waters when heading to beaches.